It is an established fact of movie history that serious movie franchises tend to eventually lighten in mood and tone the longer they go on. This truism produces exceptions, of course, such as Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise that actually seemed to darken with each successive film. Consider James Bond's sink downward nearly into self-parody between the early Sean Connery efforts and the arrival of Timothy Dalton-and the arrival of Daniel Craig to put a stake through the memory of Pierce Brosnan even more so. Consider also the manner in which most of the slasher films of the 1980s seemed more intent on producing laughs than terror by the time they reached their fourth or fifth remake wrongly regarded as a sequel.
"Cowboys & Aliens" got the combined testosterone of James Bond and Indiana Jones beat out of them on its opening weekend by a bunch of Smurf and so likely will not get the chance to prove that it could become a franchise that provides another exception or just another addition to the rule. Too bad, because here is a serious action movie franchise just aching take the route that might be described as the third alternative.
Rather than seeking to remain serious or gradually drifting more toward the comedic, a series of films based on the original concept could become a not altogether unsatisfying action comedy franchise.
I see no reason to bring back Daniel Craig, but also no reason not to. Perhaps after the seriousness of his Bond reboot, Craig might well be inspired to find a franchise with which to flex his comedy chops. And why not send Craig or another actor out into the wide expanse of the American west to test the limits of cross-hybridizing the Western genre.
"Cowboys & Vampires." "Cowboys & Zombies." "Cowboys & Werewolves." "Cowboys & Trolls."
The potential for exploring the mythos of the Western movie through the lens of supernatural creatures never before placed within that context in a mainstream Hollywood movie is almost infinite. Yes, of course, "Cowboys & Aliens" failed miserably to take advantage of its unique place in the history of the Western as the first to allow creatures from another world to interact with settlers, pioneers, gunslingers and gamblers, but that's no reason not to try.
And here is where it gets interesting. Perhaps the failure of "Cowboys & Aliens" to connect with audiences had a little less to do with its lack of focus and a little more to do with the fact that audiences tend to need to be primed through comedy to accept such a startling juxtaposition before they willfully accept the premise in a dramatic fashion. So who's so say that a "Cowboys & ???" franchise could not reverse the truism. A franchise that begins with its weight on the comedic that is allowed to gradually grow darker and more serious over time.
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